CAPE TOWN The South African government on Tuesday said it had lifted a ban on the country's rugby union hosting international events after it made progress improving racial diversity in the sport, paving the way for a 2023 Rugby World Cup bid.
The government imposed the ban last year having pushed for the country's main sports to create more opportunities for black players and administrators more than two-decades after the end of white-minority rule under the Apartheid system.
The ban also applied to athletics, cricket and netball.
"I would like to congratulate rugby, cricket and netball on their improved scores, you were clearly willing to walk the extra mile," Sports Minister Thulas Nxesi said in a statement issued by South African Rugby.
"Their right to bid for and host major sporting events, which was revoked before, is hereby immediately reinstated."
Cricket and netball have also had their sanctions lifted, while the ban remained in place for the athletics federation.
Nxesi, who is new in the post, said he expected sporting federations to provide leadership on racial diversity at school and club levels.
The government report also examines participation demographics, governance, and employment equity from school to elite level.
"This is great news and a tribute to the work that the sport has been doing in recent years to stay in tune and relevant to modern South Africa," SA Rugby president Mark Alexander said.
"We can now put the finishing touches to what we believe will be an outstanding bid to host the 2023 Rugby World Cup."
South Africa are bidding to host the global showpiece along with Ireland and France. A decision is due in November.
(Reporting By Nick Said; editing by Richard Lough)